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Randi Randall
Stefan Britt
02 May 2014
The Divergent Path to Educational Transformation
What enables the world to progress? Could it be knowledge and ones thirst for it? Or
perhaps creativity and ones desire to indulge in innovation. What about both? If one thinks
about it they might see that if we only had knowledge and lacked creativity we would only be
filled with information. There would be no new ideas to enable society to advance. If members
of society lacked knowledge and only held creativity in their minds then we would have infinite
ideas but no way to make them a reality. Society best functions when knowledge and creativity
coincide with one another. However, many educators only see the need to fill students with
knowledge rather than have them think for themselves and transform into divergent thinkers.
Divergent thinking is the ability to interpret a question in multiple ways and see several
outcomes. Divergent thinking is an essential component in order to produce creativity. If
educators are only teaching students that there is only one right answer or path then they are
slowing euthanizing creativity. In order for society to evolve instructors should be encouraging
students to become divergent thinkers in the classroom; in the real world there are multiple
strategies and answers, not just one.
It seems that today education is becoming less meaningful to many students. Its less
meaningful because of how they are being taught. They are being told that there is only one way
to do something and only one right answer. They are being given knowledge and are expected to
absorb it when it has no significance to them. In Paulo Freires article The Banking Concept of
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Education he states Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the
depositories and the teacher is the depositor (240). What this means is that student are only
being required to absorb information rather than participating in their learning. Without
participation there is a lack of creativity. Without creativity our individuals would become the
stagnant water at the edge of a river bank, there wouldnt be any new ideas to encourage the flow
of society.
When students lack participation in their learning they are giving up their ability to think
for themselves. How can one have their own ideals when they are just replicating those of
someone else? Their individuality and thinking process is being taken because someone else is
thinking for them. Nancy Sommers is the director of writing at Harvard University. In her article
Between the Drafts she discusses how she lost her own voice beneath others academic voices.
She writes:
I, like so many of my students, was reproducing acceptable truths, imitating the gestures
and rituals of the academy, not having confidence enough in my own ideas, nor trusting
the native language I had learned. I had surrendered my own authority to someone else,
to those other authorial voices. (Sommers 448)
If the director of writing at one of the most prestigious universities in North America found
herself replicating others academic voices imagine how many students today are doing this.
Individuals voices and ideas are what make the world diverse and full of innovation. When
members of society are continually replicating the ideals of those before them there isnt change.
Our river of society isnt going to grow and evolve without new tributaries (individuals) to bring
in fresh ideas, our river will remain nothing but a trivial stream.
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Countless educators today are using anesthetic means of teaching students. Anesthetic
teaching concepts is what stops the flow of meaningful learning and inhibits students to develop
their individuality. Instructors that teach this way are asphyxiating a students drive to think in
various ways. What this is doing is inhibiting students divergent thinking abilities. Sir Ken
Robinson in his presentation Changing the Paradigms of Education states the arts especially
address the idea of aesthetic experience, aesthetic experience is one in which all senses are
operating at their peak and when you are present in the current moment. When students are
existent in the current moment learning can become meaningful. They can start to learn and
apply that knowledge to reality. The importance of being able to apply classroom knowledge to
real world situations is unmeasurable. Learning in an aesthetic setting were students can
participate in their education cultivates divergent thinking, thus leading to creative and unique
The educational technique of anesthetic learning or depositing information into students
has the ability to strip them of creativity and transformation. Thus, taking away the ability for
individuals to think for themselves and induce change; something that is needed for our species
to continue. Disposing the system of divergent thinking is something that is being done in the
depths of the classroom. The antagonist behind this is some educators whom incapacitate
students abilities to think. Barry Alford, a professor at Mid-Michigan Community College
articulates we are constantly confronted with evidence that the rhetorical choices we teach our
students to use do not necessarily encourage them to think (280). Without reinforcement to
think for ones self their sense of judgment and individuality are taken from them. Many students
are only learning to replicate their instructors notions rather than discovering what their ideals
are as an individual.
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Many elementary students start out as creative and unique because they are taught in
settings where they are very much a part of the learning experience. The environment for
elementary classroom is meant to be hands-on so that it creates an enthusiastic learning setting.
There was study conducted by George Land and Beth Jarman where they tested kindergarteners
to measure their ability to think divergently. When given this test 98% of the children scored at a
genius level in divergent thinking. The same children were tested five years later and only 32%
of children scored in the genius level for divergent thinking. They then gave the test to the same
students another five years later and only 10% of students scored at the genius level for divergent
thinking. This trend shows that the further students progress through education their ability to
think in creative ways decrease. The reason for this could be the way they are being taught.
Students arent being involved enough and taking charge of their learning experience. So how do
we encourage students to become involved in the educational experience?
The teacher student relationships is perhaps the most vital component in a students
education. Paulo Freire articulates education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student
contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously
teachers and students (241). This means that teachers and students should be learning together
instead of the teacher as being seen as a higher power. What this does is it can help students
become better thinkers and help mold their individuality because then the instructor isnt
thinking for their students. When an instructor becomes an equal in the classroom it allows for
conversation and brainstorming. These are both needed in order to produce divergent thinkers.
Yet another student teacher relationship problem is that students arent being given the
opportunity to speak as their own individuals within the classroom. Many teachers are only using
their voice and overlooking the fact that students need to be engaged in the conversation as well.
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Listening to what students have to say can give opportunity to new methods and outlooks.
Given the opportunity to speak their own authority as writers, given a turn in the conversation,
students can claim their stories as primary source material and transform their experiences into
evidence (Sommers 450). Students need to be engaged in their learning and should want to be
involved in it. However it is hard for many students to want to engage in their learning because it
isnt meaningful to them. Giving them the chance to incorporate their own personal lives in
conversation as well as writing in the classroom can assist in bringing out the significant
meaning in their education. Once they become engaged inside the classroom they may start to
share experiences and ideas. This will get them on the path of knowing that there is multiple
answers and outcomes in life, not just the one that many instructors force upon them.
When students become engaged in conversation with instructors and fellow classmates it
has a way of opening up students minds to new ideas and different ways of thinking. It aids them
to become conscious of others perspectives on matters and ask questions. According to Alford
we need to support a broader sense of literacy, one that engages students in a community of
speakers and listeners going about the messy business of thinking through a problem rather than
a community in which the problem is always solved (280). Allowing students to have the
chance of brainstorming with others can generate unique ideas and help individuals with problem
solving skills. Unique ideas and problem solving skills are attributes that we need our members
of society have in order to move towards a better future. Perhaps the way that we can progress is
to encourage students to not only think but think in a group as well.
Another teaching method that aids in encouraging divergent thinking is visual learning.
The benefit of visual learning is that students arent having information deposited into them; they
witness erudition rather than being told information to recite later. Teaching students visually as
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well as including them in learning process can have a great advantage in there learning. In
Robinsons presentation he discusses how students benefit from visual learning more because
they are simply not bored. When they are not bored theyre in the present moment and their
senses are awake to new possibilities. Once an individuals senses are fully alive they are able to
perceive situations in ways that they may have not of been able to before. Thus, creating
divergent thinking individuals.
Divergent thinking is a characteristic that not only individual people can benefit from but
our society as a whole can benefit from. We need divergent thinkers in our society. In order to
encourage divergent thinking in students, instructors need to inspire students to be creative
individuals in the classroom. Our society can become the object of transformation when the men
and women in our society have the ability to solve problems and look at situations in multiple
ways rather than only being able to narrate information from an instructor. After all society has
not evolved to what it is today by material that individuals were filled with. Rather it seems to
have evolved by peoples capability to look at situations differently and transform what the
original outcome may have been. If we let creativity dissolve within our classrooms then
divergent thinkers will diminish as a consequence. Depriving the world of creativity and
divergent thinkers will force our society to become stationary. Students should be able to take the
reins of their own education and participate in teaching so that they are also learning for
themselves and how to cope with situations in creative and innovative ways. Couldnt this be the
revolutionary elucidation that the world needs to keep our societies from becoming that stagnant
water at the edge of the river bank?
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Works Cited
Alford, Barry. "Freirean Voices, Student Choices." Exploring Relationships: Globalization and
Learning in the 21st Century. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 279-81. Print.
Robinson, Ken, Sir. "RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms." YouTube. YouTube, 14
Oct. 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Land, George, and Beth Jarman. Breaking Point and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today. N.p.:
Leadership 2000, 1998. Print.
Sommers, Nancy. Between the Drafts. Exploring Relationships: Globalization and Learning in
the 21
Century. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 443-450. Print
Freire, Paulo. The Banking Concept of Education.Composing Knowledge: Readings for
College Writers. Ed. Rolf Norgaard. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 239-251. Print.